Oil, gas boom fuels Harrison safety issues

CADIZ – Ohio’s natural gas boom, rumbling into Harrison County in recent months, is drawing complaints from some residents.

Oil and natural gas wells are popping up around the area as well as a web of pipelines which are being constructed to access drilling sites, which prompted Harrison County Commissioners and Sheriff Ronald J. Myers to address road conditions and traffic safety at Wednesday’s meeting.

“The safety of the residents, and the condition of the county’s roads, are major concerns for us,” said committee chair Don Bethel.

Myers explained that he had hosted a safety meeting with area companies which the commissioners attended at which the concerns with the increased truck traffic were discussed.

“Chesapeake was tired of getting complaints of its vehicles speeding on the roads over in Carroll County and they have been proactive on that issue,” Myers told the board. “They purchased signs which state a speed limit for Chesapeake traffic and these signs also take photos of vehicles which they can check for any violations.”

“Most of the county and township roads, which were part of our discussion the other day, are 55 miles per hour,” Myers explained. “Chesapeake has posted speed limits which are below those legal limits.”

“We are getting complaints all the time about speeding issues,” Myers said. “We were getting a lot of complaints about traffic on Bower Road.”

Rural roads designed for light traffic now are handling thousands of trucks per day, some weighing more than 170,000 pounds, he said.

And the number of vehicles needed to bring one well into production, about 1,184 loaded trucks, has the equivalent impact of years of normal traffic.

“They are unfamiliar with the roads and some of these vehicles are going too fast for the winding highways here in the county,” Myers stated. “I have driven a truck here in the county and I can tell you that if they just slow down 5 or 10 miles an hour they can travel the roads safely, maintaining their own lane.”

“Initially the Midstream people stated that the drivers were subcontractors and not under their control,” Myers said. “We explained to them that they were a responsible party and they agreed that it should be their concern as the contractor and have been very diligent since in monitoring their hired truck drivers for safety and speed.”

Myers attended Chesapeake’s safety meeting on Jan. 17 in Canton and set up his own meeting with Atlas, Gulfport, Chesapeake, Midstream, Hess and Chevron representatives to address the issues in Harrison County.

“We brought up traffic safety issues and it was not a bloodbath where the oil and gas companies were beat up on,” Myers stated. “The meeting went very well, we discussed the issues and decided that we will conduct these safety meetings once a month.”

“I thank all the commissioners and all of the elected officials who attended,” Myers stated the topics included roads, stop signs and guard rails.

Doug Crabtree brought a road use agreement before the board at which time Bethel took the opportunity to introduce an amendment to all future contracts which will specify that authorization from the engineer’s office must be obtained to cross any highway, adding that the county must approve and coordinate any transportation detours.

“I feel they are a little bit confused as to what they can and cannot do, and specifically, I do not want anybody cutting across any roads,” Bethel explained. “We are aware that this has been happening.”

“One recent example is a pipeline which crossed CR 2 and my concern is that there are no stipulations as to how the road must be restored,” Bethel said.

The sheriff announced that Feb. 25 will be the next safety meeting to be held at the Cadiz Library, time to be announced.

Palmer may be reached at mpalmer@timesleaderonline.com